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Family of man killed by police officer files civil lawsuit

ROCKY FORD, Colo. -- The family of a young man killed by a Rocky Ford police officer filed a civil lawsuit against the officer and the city.

Lawyers representing the family of victim Jack Jacquez filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

They blame not only the man who pulled the trigger, James Ashby, but the city and police chief who they say knew Ashby was violent -- and did nothing about it.

Ashby became the first police officer in Colorado in decades to be convicted of murder for something he did while on duty. His murder conviction happened in June for the shooting death of Jacquez in 2014.

The victim’s family said their hope with the lawsuit is to force Rocky Ford to change.

Jacquez's mother and the mothers of his three children filed the 37-page lawsuit. In it, they say Jacquez would be alive if Rocky Ford had never hired Ashby.

He had been on the force just four months when he killed Jacquez.

"There were all these signs out there and they ignored it," attorney John Lee said. “I believe if it hadn’t been Jack Jacquez, it would have been someone else. This guy had a history of violence with members of the community.”

Lee said the city and former police chief Frank Gallegos gave Ashby, 32, a gun and the authority to use it despite glaring warning signs.

"He had complaints by citizens in other jurisdictions for being violent. He even had complaints in Rocky Ford where he had only worked four months," Lee said.

The lawsuit said in one complaint, Ashby placed his service weapon on the skull of a shooting victim and threatened to put another bullet in his head after the victim asked why he was being treated like a criminal.

Then, in early October, the lawsuit said Ashby severely beat a man in a jail holding cell, forcing him to lie handcuffed in a pool of someone else's vomit, after the victim asked Ashby why he needed to remove his shoes.

“He's a bully with a badge. And he was not trained and he was not supervised. They let him go and do his thing," Lee said.

Eight days later, on Oct. 12, 2014, Ashby followed 27-year-old Jacquez into his home and shot him in the back in front of his mother.

"It's almost unbelievable what happened that night. Yet, it happened. The sad thing is if you look at his history, the city should have seen this coming. All the signs were there," Lee said.

The family's ultimate goal in pursuing the lawsuit is to get Rocky Ford to improve how it hires, trains and supervises its police officers.

They're also seeking a financial settlement to care for Jacquez's children. A jury will decide what that amount will be.

Ashby faces up to 48 years in prison when he’s sentenced Oct. 28 on the murder conviction.